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Scottish Political Insider

Scottish Political Insider

As Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond raised the speed limit, and as Secretary of State for Defence he allowed women to serve on Royal Navy submarines. But on Wednesday, the Chancellor made the most important announcement of his career as he delivered the first post-Brexit autumn statement, one which paired giveaways with grim forecasts.

Elsewhere, President-elect Trump attacked Scotland’s ‘awful’ windfarms, Humza Yousaf was accused of being out of touch with Scotland’s trains and a BMG poll found some Scots would accept a “hard border” if it meant they could remain in the EU.

And so to Mr Hammond and his first post-Brexit budget. He promised the UK government would facilitate “fiscal headroom” to support the economy and that growth is forecast to be 2.1% this year, and 1.4% in 2017. The reduction is due to predicted lower investment and weaker demand in UK products from overseas, not to mention ongoing economic uncertainty and higher inflation.

In terms of Scotland, the autumn statement is a special one with the country now having substantial tax powers in place. Mr Hammond announced that Scotland’s capital budget is set to be given an extra £800m over the next five years as part of an investment package and he confirmed a City Deal agreement for Stirling, and made clear that he is considering proposals from Perth and Dundee.

The Chancellor also announced the UK government would no longer be seeking a budget surplus in 2019/20. Other announcements included a £2.3bn housing infrastructure fund to help provide 100,000 new homes in high-demand areas, as well as the news that the National Living Wage is set to rise to £7.50 from next April. £23bn will be spent on innovation and infrastructure while insurance premium tax is set rise from 10% to 12% next June.

Meanwhile, it was claimed Donald Trump has urged Nigel Farage to campaign against windfarms in Scotland. During a meeting in New York, the first with a British politician, Mr Trump also claimed Mr Farage would be a “great” UK ambassador to the US. Unsurprisingly, the idea was quickly shot down by the UK Government. Elsewhere, Scotland’s Transport Secretary Humza Yousaf was forced to give an emergency statement on Scottish rail services. This follows repeated concerns over ScotRail’s reliability since Abellio took over. Unfortunately for Mr Yousaf, his statement was followed by major disruption to services in Glasgow due to a fault in overhead power cables.

And finally, an exclusive poll for the Herald by BMG Research found two out of five Scots would accept a ‘hard’ border with the rest of the UK if it meant staying in the EU. The findings also suggested that 57 per cent would prefer Scotland to be outside the EU if that meant it could retain free trade and open borders with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with our political guru, Devin Scobie on 07900 397 872or devin.scobie@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

Scottish Political Insider

Scottish Political Insider

Following last week’s overdose of politics the way only America can deliver, our focus this week returns to Scottish politics. Theresa May came out guns blazing in response to a question from SNP veteran Angus Robertson at Prime Minister’s Questions.  Nicola Sturgeon confirmed she was looking to Scandinavia for inspiration on how to remain in the Single Market and two famous English historians came out in support of Scotland in Union.

 

And the ScotRail train crisis continues to deteriorate, causing disruption to tens of thousands of Scottish train users.

 

In UK construction, those operating in the sector were left reeling following the latest ONS figures which illustrated that activity was as its weakest level in four years. The sector shrank by 1.1% in the July-September period in line with rising costs and reduced activity, with large falls also taking place in repair work.  However, it wasn’t all bad news as overall construction output remains 0.6 per cent higher than it was a year ago.

 

During a rowdy Prime Minister’s Questions, Theresa May faced a barrage of questioning from Jeremy Corbyn and Angus Robertson. The Labour leader had May on the ropes early as he the branded the Government’s preparations for Brexit a “total shambles”, while Angus Robertson was quick to pounce on what was an increasingly exasperated Mrs May. Noting comments released in an Institute for Government report which said the UK Government’s approach to Brexit was “chaotic and dysfunctional”, he then asked:  “Will the Prime Minister confirm today to the country whether the UK is likely to leave the EU customs union post-Brexit, yes or no?”  This was the glimmer of hope the Prime Minister needed and she came out fighting. She replied: “The Right Honourable gentleman stands up time and again in Prime Minister’s questions and says to me that he wants access to the single European market. I might remind him that it was only a couple of years ago that he wanted to take Scotland out of the single European market.” Ouch. During the Scottish independence referendum, the SNP wanted Scotland to be a full member of the EU, yet offered little clarify on how this would be achieved with Theresa May using the ‘how soon we forget’ card to good effect.

 

Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament’s conveners’ group that the European Free Trade Association and European Economic Area models were being looked at to keep Scotland in the single market.  Scottish Conservative finance spokesman, the ever wily former Deputy Leader Murdo Fraser, said it was a “complete non-starter” and even Keith Brown, the Scottish Government’s economy minister distanced himself from the plan. Scottish Labour’s Europe spokesman Lewis Macdonald went a step further calling it a “chaotic week for the SNP”.The Daily Telegraph also pointed to Scottish Government analysis published in 2013 which contained a section entitled: “Why the alternatives to membership are not attractive” in which it examined the EEA and EFTA. The First Minister may yet have to go back to the drawing board.

 

Meanwhile, Dan Snow and Tom Holland called on Scotland to reject a second independence referendum and stay part of the UK to help “renew and revitalise the Union”. The joint statement was compelling and may signal the beginning of a next wave of ‘love bombing’ in the face of renewed calls for a second Scottish independence referendum.

 

Elsewhere, Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yousaf remains under fire amid growing criticism of Scotland’s rail service. Rail union Aslef called for him to be sacked following widespread disruption across the network on Thursday, and this follows growing dissatisfaction with Scotrail over delayed, cancelled and overcrowded trains. Nicola Sturgeon apologised for Thursday’s rail problems during First Minister’s Questions – and in a clear warning shot to the Dutch-owned operator Abellio, she told MSPs that the option of stripping them of the ScotRail franchise was being kept under review.

 

 

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with our political guru, Devin Scobie on 07900 397 872 or devin.scobie@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

SPI US Election Special – Friday 11 November 2016

SPI US Election Special – Friday 11 November 2016

So where to start?  Despite the polls and despite near universal opposition across the mainstream political establishment, The Donald was triumphant.  More stories and headlines about him have been written in the last 48 hours than were probably published in the entire 19th Century.  But elected he was, and even Nicola Sturgeon had to congratulate him, albeit through clearly gritted teeth and stressing: “We value our relationship with the United States and its people.  The ties that bind Scotland and the US – of family, culture and business – are deep and longstanding and they will always endure.”

 

A special mention, amongst the sea of damning with feint praise, goes to The Buchan Observer.  Their ‘Aberdeenshire business owner wins presidential election’ headline was not only picked up by the wider UK media, it also proved a useful reminder of the links that Mr Trump has with Scotland.

 

It remains to be seen, of course, how President Trump will run one of the greatest countries in the world alongside his global business empire, a part of which is centred in Scotland. Of the Scottish golf courses, it is no secret the pride in which Mr Trump holds them and it would appear unlikely that he will cede ownership once he is sworn in next January.

 

So what next in terms of links with Scotland? Well, some of Mr Trump’s more vocal critics may need to start building bridges with the leader-elect of the free world and fast.  There have been a number of spats with Alex Salmond regarding wind warm lawsuits and the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber. Mr Trump went so far as to call Mr Salmond: “An embarrassment to Scotland”. Eck could well have been forgiven for releasing a barbed comment on Tuesday but instead took a conciliatory approach. Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he said: “On the positive side, there have been a couple of things he developed in the campaign, if we sweep aside all the divisive, demeaning rhetoric, and that is the rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure of America.”

 

The US result also saw responses from Scotland’s party leaders. Kezia Dugdale who had previously said Mr Trump was an “arse”, said: “While we must all respect the result of this democratic contest, today is a dark day for those of us who believe in compassion, tolerance and equality.” Ruth Davidson noted how Mr Trump had “tapped into the disaffection we are seeing across the world right now due to economic uncertainty,” while Willie Rennie called on him to turn his back on the “politics of division”. Patrick Harvie was the most damming, calling Mr Trump “a racist, sexist bully”.

 

The United States has long been Scotland’s largest trading partner across a number of sectors, with American investment also something the Scottish Government is working hard to see more of. Even with Trump in place, the Scottish Government cannot risk rocking the transatlantic apple cart, nor will they.

 

Have a nice day now.

 

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with our political guru, Devin Scobie on 07900 397 872 or devin.scobie@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

US Election Insight Special – all you need to know from the land of the free and home of the brave

US Election Insight Special – all you need to know from the land of the free and home of the brave

US Election Insight Special – all you need to know from the land of the free and home of the brave

The eyes of the world are on the United States today as voters go to the polls to decide who will be the next American President and therefore the most powerful (wo)man in the free world. We’ll have a summary of the implications of the result for Scotland in this week’s Political Insider, but by way of an election day warm up, here’s a short overview of the story so far…

The background

If there’s one thing America knows how to do, it’s Presidential elections. As much a part of the national psyche as apple pie, blue jeans and fireworks on the fourth of July, this latest campaign has been one of the most unconventional – and unpredictable – in recent history. Either veteran Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican businessman Donald Trump will wake up on Wednesday morning as president-elect – and even then, the story will only just be starting.

The talking points

Clinton’s use of a private email server as Secretary of State has dogged her since campaigning began. She was (again) cleared by the FBI over her actions, yet its impact and concerns relating to her perceived untrustworthiness may yet damage her on polling day. Questions also appeared about the role she played and extent to which she silenced a number of women who allegedly had affairs with her husband. This particular legacy of Bill’s isn’t going to go away any time soon.

Yet arguably, and despite the best efforts of the Republican Party strategists, all of her actions have been overshadowed by the crass, shoot-from-the-hip approach of one of America’s most powerful men: Donald Trump. Where to begin? From early calls to halt all Muslims coming into America to disparaging comments made about, err, large swathes of the population, Mr Trump has created controversy on an almost weekly basis. From sexual remarks made about women to calling Mexican immigrants ‘racists and criminals’, not to mention ongoing questioning about his business practices, it’s clear to see why he is one of the most disliked candidates in history. Yet surprisingly, this isn’t reflected in voter surveys, with Trump only trailing his rival by a couple of points in the final poll of polls.

Where they stand

The campaign has seen personality come before policy at times, but key proposals for the Democrats include tighter gun laws, job creation of 10m jobs by investing in renewable energy and small businesses, an increased position on the ground in Syria to fight ISIS and a review of international trade agreements. While immigration and the creation of a wall on the Mexican border has been Trump’s key issue, he has also claimed he will create 25m jobs, reduce the US corporate tax rate to 15% and increase relations with Russia.

And so to election night … what to look for

If you can stay up to 3am Wednesday you should know who has won.  Republicans will count on winning Texas while California will see a Democrat victory, but the result of certain swing states will give a good picture of the way the vote will go. America by its very nature is politically mixed. A lot of west coast Democrats would be classed as far more small-c conservative than east coast Republicans and this is likely to show when the votes are counted. Clinton may attract Republican voters who are put off by Trump, most notably in Florida. Other key swing states include Colorado, North Carolina and Nevada, as well as Virginia, where only 78 percent of Republicans back Trump. Arizona, which has been Republican in every election bar two since the war, was expected to see a Democrat win but now looks set to be Trump’s to lose.

The BBC will be covering it all and their extensive coverage is all anchored via its US Elections page here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/us2016

And amidst all the Presidential fuss, remember that the full House of Congress and a third of the Senate plus multiple Governorships are also up for election today.  Even if Hillary wins, she could embark on her Presidency shackled to a hostile Republican Congress and – just maybe – also a Republican dominated Senate as well.

In conclusion

This election campaign has led to a number of Americans questioning where they really sit on the political spectrum. While leftist politics holds no ground in the U.S, Clinton is a slightly left of centre Democrat. Trump has steered the Republican Party further to the right, a move which will both attract new voters and see Republican stalwarts turn their back on the party.

The Perceptive team (well, two of us anyway) will be doing a late shift to savour results coming in live.  Only the Land of the Free knows how to make election night such a theatrical spectacle.

Have a Good Day now.

Edinburgh’s commercial property market is booming – but apathy over managing buildings will store up problems for the future

Edinburgh’s commercial property market is booming – but apathy over managing buildings will store up problems for the future

By Jill Armstrong, Head of Commercial Management, Speirs Gumley

 

Edinburgh’s commercial property market is in resurgence. Demand is high and supply is low, especially in the city centre, which makes it a very attractive proposition for investors.

In fact, investment in the capital’s commercial property looks set to reach its highest point since 2006 – before the recession began. According to real estate firm Knight Frank, the total investment for 2016 is expected to reach £476m, compared to £331m last year.

Confidence in Edinburgh’s property market – both commercial and residential – is one of the main reasons Speirs Gumley decided to open an office in the capital in May this year. Since we’ve been in Edinburgh we’ve noticed that the property management landscape here is very different compared with Glasgow, where we’ve been established for many years.

The big difference is the way commercial properties with multiple owners are managed. In Glasgow, multi-occupied office or retail buildings which share common facilities and amenities are usually managed by a property manager, or factor. The property manager will take care of things like instructing communal maintenance and repairs, inspections, insurance and ensuring compliance with Health & Safety and other legislation. They can also provide financial services such as rent collection, debt recovery, invoices and supplier payments.

However, in Edinburgh, factoring of commercial properties – and residential ones – is far less common. The more usual situation with multi-owned properties in the capital is that the owners try to organise things themselves. If done correctly this can occasionally work, but more often than not it causes numerous problems like maintenance not being carried out, some owners ending up paying more than others for repairs, and builders being reluctant to carry out work as they fear they won’t get paid. If absentee owners are involved, it can be a near impossible task.

If multiple owners can’t agree on a repair and the situation deteriorates, it can eventually become a risk to public safety or health and in that case a statutory repair notice will be served by the council, who will then carry out work to remove the imminent danger. If this happens, owners must make immediate payment with no grace period, and the split of repair costs is not always in line with the title deeds. Notices served in an emergency apply to all owners, even if the shared parts are not mentioned in their title deeds.

The situation is likely to have originated from the City of Edinburgh Council’s old Statutory Notice system, which was designed to protect the huge number of listed buildings within the UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Old and New Towns. Right up until 2013, this gave the council statutory powers to intervene to organise repair work on private properties when the owners of shared buildings could not reach agreement. This system was a bit of a safety net for property owners to fall back on if things got too complicated, so many felt they didn’t really need a property manager. In the past few years this system has been scaled back and the Council will now only get involved when there’s a risk to health and safety – and has begun to advise building owners to consider using a factor.

Despite this advice, factored buildings are still a bit of a rarity in Edinburgh. Perhaps this is due to the fact that property managers have a bit of an image problem. In fact, when it comes to public perception, factors are probably competing with telemarketers and traffic wardens to see who ranks bottom of the popularity chart. However, a good property manager will make your life easier by providing technical expertise, organising work, dealing with billing and ironing out any problems between owners. Unlike in the bad old days, property factors in Scotland are now regulated by the Property Factors (Scotland) Act 2011 and must abide by the Code of Conduct for Property Factors, which has helped weed out the rogue operators. Don’t forget that you employ the factor, so if they are not doing a good job, you can change them to somebody who will.

We want all these investors who are flooding back to Edinburgh to know that factors aren’t the bad guys, and that rather than costing them more, the chances are they will save substantial sums of money, not to mention time, energy and aggravation, by using a property manager to look after their precious investment.

 

A good property manager will always work in your best interests and be able to use economies of scale to save money on repairs, and carry out planned, preventative, cost-effective maintenance that will hopefully save you a visit from council officials wielding a statutory repair notice.

 

Scottish Political Insider

Scottish Political Insider

By the time you read next week’s SPI, Hillary Rodham Clinton will be President-elect and ‘The Donald’ will be considering his next moves against a ‘rigged poll’.  The wider world will surely breathe a sigh of relief.  Hopefully.

 

Scottish domestic politics continue to be dominated by Brexit uncertainties.  Economic warnings from a think-tank over Scotland’s exclusion from the single market appear not to have dented Conservative domination in the latest ICM poll.  We have seen a first of its kind move by Aberdeen City Council, and British construction growth figures were published.

 

While Mr Trump reversed a 12 point Democratic advantage to lead his rival by a point, it was the result of a different poll which generated the bulk of UK media attention and illustrated Labour’s – failing – attempts to keep pace with the Conservatives. The latest ICM poll illustrated that the Conservatives held a massive 16 point lead over the opposition. While worrying enough for the Labour Party, it also suggests that public opinion isn’t changing, even with the ongoing political discussion on and potential for a so called ‘hard’ Brexit.

 

Theresa May’s plans for triggering Brexit were plunged into chaos by a sensational High Court judgment that she cannot bypass Parliament.  In a decision that forced Ms May to insist she would not call an early election, three judges ruled the Prime Minister does not have the right to use the Royal Prerogative to invoke the Article 50 notice to leave the EU without involving MPs and peers.  The extraordinary development throws into confusion whether Ms May can stick to her timetable to trigger Article 50 by the end of March – and leave the EU by spring 2019. The Government immediately confirmed it would challenge the ruling at the Supreme Court – probably on December 7 – with speculation the case could end up at the European Court of Justice.

 

It was Brexit of a softer variety which concerned Scotland this week with comments made suggesting it was unlikely that the country could remain in the EU single market if the rest of the UK left. Giving evidence at Holyrood’s economy committee, Dr Fabian Zuleeg of the European Policy Centre and a member of Scotland’s Council on Europe, warned that the chance of Scotland remaining if others were to leave was “highly unlikely.”

 

With the UK not having negotiated a trade agreement since the seventies, it remains to be seen to what extent a special deal can be done. However, what can be said with authority is the extent to which the SNP will press the matter, using the single market debate – while releasing figures to highlight the negative economic implications if excluded – to support calls for a second Scottish independence referendum.

 

On Wednesday, figures from the NIESR economic think-tank suggested that UK exports from the services sector could be cut by up to 60 per cent if Scotland was removed from the single market – this would be the equivalent of a £2.3 billion hit. The next few weeks will see the Scottish Government publish proposals for Scotland to remain inside the single market, with further grave warnings of the country’s exclusion from the trading block expected.

Meanwhile, there was positive economic news for the UK construction sector as the Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 52.6. A rise in housebuilding was the catalyst for the rise, but a reduction in order books and the ongoing increases in material costs may stifle future growth.

 

And finally. Aberdeen may be the home of Britain’s oldest business in Aberdeen Harbour Board, with the City’s football team also the first in Scotland to play at all seater stadium, but its City Council was also leading the way this week. Aberdeen City Council issued stock market bonds worth £370m to fund infrastructure projects through capital markets, the first local authority in the country to do so.

 

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie McLauchlan on 07734 932 578 or julie.mclauchlan@perceptivecommunicators.co.uk

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